Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Finding Happiness

I think it's safe to assume that a good majority (if not all) of us believes that the key to a good life is happiness, right?  What do we want for our kids most, above all things?  We just want them to "be happy".  So we jump through hoops to make our children happy, hopefully teaching them how to find happiness in their own lives.  But what IS happiness exactly?

Joy is often a word used interchangeably with happiness.  No surprise there, right?  What is the difference anyway?  Most of us want to "find happiness" and believe that we must "seek joy" in order to do that.  The thing is, we cannot find happiness like it's a lost twenty dollar bill on the street that we were lucky enough to find before the next passerby picks it up. We must CREATE it, and contrary to what many believe, seeking joy does not sustain long term happiness!  Let me clarify here, I'm not suggesting there is anything wrong with joy, joy is great, we all need joy in our lives.  The distinction I am referring to is that joy is a temporary emotion that passes by just like the other emotions we experience in any given day (or fleeting moment), but happiness is a state of mind.

Does your favorite snack bring you happiness, even though it will be gone in 15 minutes?  No, but it sure does bring you joy for those 15 minutes, doesn't it?

Does your new toy (or purse for the ladies reading this) bring you happiness even though it will eventually wear out and end up in the trash some day?  Just like your favorite snack, it too will bring you joy...for as long as you like it.

Does the newest Star Wars movie bring you happiness even though it will end in a few hours?  It may teach you something about happiness, but the short-term effect is pure joy, for two hours.

I could go on, and I am sure that you can list a billion things that bring you joy.  What all these things have in common is that they bring you temporary joy.  And like I said earlier, joy is great, we should be seeking joy, but we should not be confusing this with happiness.  Joy is not a replacement for happiness.  Happiness, as a permanent state of mind comes from doing the work, from developing our-inner-selves and doing it for ourselves, not to please someone else.  It is not a passing emotion, it's a state of mind that you cultivate according to your own deeply rooted belief system.  One question you can ask yourself to separate short term joy from long term happiness is this; if you were to take away the thing you are questioning, are you still the same person without it?  Joy is a form of pleasure, often a sensorial experience, not a deeply mental experience and it is gone once the experience is gone.

True happiness is cultivated daily and the truth is we are already doing things every day to develop and model happiness.  But can we do more?
  • Long term happiness is finding your confidence even when it's hard to believe in yourself, or better yet, believing in yourself especially when no one else does!
  • Long term happiness is choosing to defend a cause that is close to your heart despite having to go against the grain.
  • Long term happiness is getting back up on that bike even though you fell off of it three times already and believing you can do it, because you can!
  • Long term happiness is paying it forward and doing something kind without the need for recognition or praise.
  • Long term happiness is taking the time to understand a bully rather than learning to hit him harder.
  • Long term happiness is forgiving the one who hurt you. 
  • Long term happiness is serving others.
  • Long term happiness is praying or meditating to deepen your consciousness.
  • Long term happiness is recognizing the good in everyone.
  • Long term happiness is making the right decision even when the wrong decision is easier (and more joyful).
When we live a life cultivating our inner happiness, we are more capable of navigating the intricacies of this unpredictable world without falling hard and floundering in a perpetual haze of hurts.  We fall down, get back up, dust ourselves off, find the lesson in our fall and move on wiser and happier.  Happiness is the foundation of our lives and we must always believe we ARE happy, not that we must find it.  Happiness must not be seen as a future goal.  As long as we are consciously and mindfully living our truth day in and day out, and modeling it for our children, we don't need to look for it.

And how do we teach our children to be happy?  We simply model it.  They can learn to open doors for others even when they are in a hurry, they can learn to forgive easily, they can learn compassion and unconditional love, they can learn to serve others, they can learn to try again even when there is fear, they can learn to compassionately stand up for themselves, but we must model these behaviors for our youth in order for them to become ingrained in who they are.

If you desire to attain happiness and if you wish to live in a world of harmony and peace, you must understand that the journey begins with you.  It is only then that you can reach out and touch the lives of others and change the world.  -Dalai Lama

So rather than "finding happiness" today, repeat this affirmation to yourself every day - I AM HAPPY - and believe it!